Taco Bell and Beyond Meat are finally ready to share what they’ve been cooking up for the last few years and it’s an innovation like no other. Starting October 13, the Beyond Carne Asada Steak will hit the menu for a limited time (or while supplies last) at nearly 50 Taco Bell locations in Dayton, OH.
The new vegan steak is made to mimic Taco Bell’s existing marinated steak in flavor and texture but does not contain any animal-derived ingredients.
“We know that consumers are looking for diverse protein options that are better for the planet without compromising on taste, so we’re incredibly excited to launch our brand-new, innovative Beyond Carne Asada Steak,” Dariush Ajami, Beyond Meat’s Chief Innovation Officer, said in a statement. “Designed to specifically complement the bold, savory flavors that Taco Bell is known for, Beyond Carne Asada Steak delivers the flavorful, delicious taste and texture of marinated, grilled steak with the added benefits of plant-based meat.”
The Beyond Carne Asada Steak will be featured in a quesadilla ($5.19) but can be ordered in any menu item instead of animal-derived meat for no extra cost—a rarity in quick-service restaurants [QSRs] where plant-based alternatives are often provided at an upcharge.
“At Taco Bell, we’ve long believed that anyone should be able to choose plant-based menu items without compromising the flavors they crave,” Liz Matthews, Taco Bell’s Global Chief Food Innovation Officer, said in a statement. “That’s why we at Taco Bell are thrilled to reveal the result of our long-standing partnership with Beyond Meat, which is previously unseen in the QSR industry. This plant-based carne asada steak is just the latest move in our history of crafting some of the most unique, craveworthy offerings for all fans.”
Similar to other plant-based items on Taco Bell’s menu, the new Beyond Carne Asada Steak is certified vegan by the American Vegetarian Association. While Taco Bell defines “vegan” as made without animal ingredients, the chain notes that the new vegan steak can come in contact with animal products due to shared equipment and surfaces.
Beyond Meat’s vegan steak at Taco Bell
The new Beyond Carne Asada Steak is the result of rigorous product development between Beyond Meat and Taco Bell, which worked together to bring to market something that consumers haven’t seen on a menu of Taco Bell’s caliber.
“Good things come to those who wait and this one took time but we wanted to make sure we got it right,” Marissa Thiry, Taco Bell’s Senior Nutrition Specialist, told VegNews during a preview event. “We’re super excited that it’s here now.”
The vegan steak is crafted from plant-based ingredients such as vital wheat gluten and faba beans and is marinated using Taco Bell’s signature spices. Tasting it at the event, VegNews editors were impressed by the citrusy flavor and chew of Beyond Carne Asada Steak, which we tried in a vegan soft taco topped with guacamole.
“We wanted to create something that was as close in taste and texture to traditional marinated grilled steak so we really looked at all options to see what made the most sense to deliver what we were looking for,” Thiry said. “I’m super happy with where we landed using the ingredients that we chose.”
While many QSRs price plant-based meats at a premium, Taco Bell chose to price the Beyond Carne Asada Steak at parity with traditional steak in order to make the option appealing and accessible to consumers.
“We think that price parity is super important to help increase accessibility to all our fans who are looking to try something plant-based,” Thiry said. “That is one of the things I love about this [product]—that we’re able to offer it at the same price point as steak and not for an upcharge.”
Taco Bell’s vegan beef
In 2021, Taco Bell’s vegetarian options represented more than 12 percent of its sales and the chain is looking to bolster that number with new innovation. “We are constantly listening to what our fans are asking us to do and evolving our menu to meet their needs and the demand,” Thiry said. “While we have had vegetarian options on our menu since the very first Taco Bell opened with the bean and cheese burrito, we know that customers are still asking for more plant-based options, so we’re constantly looking at what’s next and what we can bring to them that’s unique to Taco Bell and that delivers to them what they’re looking for.”
The new Beyond Meat-made steak is just one of the plant-based meat options Taco Bell is currently exploring. In April 2021, Taco Bell first unveiled its “seasoned plant-based protein” at one location in Tustin, CA and offered it as part of the Cravetarian Taco (a meatless version of its Crunchy Taco Supreme). Last fall, Taco Bell expanded the test of its first plant-based beef to 95 Detroit area locations to gain market insights about the protein on a larger scale. Last month, Taco Bell further expanded the test to 50 locations in Birmingham, AL where the chain is gathering intel on the vegan beef until mid-October.
The Beyond Carne Asada Steak could have a similar trajectory as Taco Bell’s vegan beef, with multiple market tests to gain insights. “We’re going to figure out what makes the most sense for our customers and our fans and we’re going to be listening to them during this test to hear what they have to say,” Thiry said. “But the sky’s the limit.”